So, I’ve been rummaging through archives to try to understand more of the history of our churches and why things are how they are. In the course of that I’ve found a whole bunch of field reports, which are the mission leaders’ reflections on how things are going, to be sent back to home bases. Fifty years ago, cultural sensitivity was not necessarily a strong point for missionaries, but the power relationships in churches seemed to be somewhat the same as today:
This is a simplified version of a seminar talk I gave on Thursday called “Clergy and laity in the context of Japanese religiosity”. But I like the current title better. :) The original handout for the seminar is attached. (If you’re on Facebook you might need to click through to “original site” to see the attachment)
I’ve banged on about passivity in our churches a few times here already, but now I want to look at the reason why it’s a big deal:
The whole of Japanese society is set up to encourage religious passivity.
As of this week, we are no longer WEC regional workers for the south west of England and south Wales - we’re now graduate students at Redcliffe College. And to be honest, I’m glad; our position was starting to become untenable. We spent time going around to churches in the UK, describing the challenges of the Japanese church situation, but in the end, I was starting to see those same challenges mirrored in the congregations in front of us.
It’s let me to believe that in the next ten to twenty years, the church in the UK will find itself in a state of crisis. Let me explain why. Read more about Change and decay in all around I see
So I mentioned that church is on the whole passive. And myself and others have mentioned that we want to look at a different way of doing church - Simple Church, House Church, whatever you want to call it - which is more participatory. But what does more participatory church look like? Last year I went to a training session on a simple church methodology coming out of Japan, which I’ll call “Upwards, Outwards, Inwards”, and what they do there could well work over here as well. Read more about Upwards, Outwards, Inwards: Simple church from Japan
We’ve been going around churches talking about our mission experience in Japan and some of the challenges we face with the Japanese church. And I have been explaining about a crushing feeling of passivity - that people turn up, sing a few songs, get preached at and go home. There is no real opportunity for people to take an active role in the life of the church community, at any level more meaningful than arranging the flowers and cleaning the church building. In short, the priesthood of all believers isn’t there yet. And everyone agrees that it’s such a shame and we pray that something will be done about it. I’m even going to be (hopefully) studying an MA from September researching models of Japanese Christian leadership to see if we can’t do church leadership a bit differently.
But recently I’ve realised that I have been blinded to something - actually, the majority of churches that I visit in the UK work in exactly the same manner. Read more about Passivity in churches
Our librarian is a gem. She is fantastic, and she delights in finding us articles and books that interest us. (And she reads this blog, so I have to be nice to her anyway. Thankfully, she makes it easy.) So when this month's "International Bulletin of Missionary Research" had an article on "The Congregational Leadership Crisis Facing the Japanese Church", she kept it back for me to read.
Our librarian is a gem. She is fantastic, and she delights in finding us articles and books that interest us. (And she reads this Read more about Japanese church leadership